How to Run Windows 10 on a Mac Using VirtualBox

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I was contacted this week by a potential client who wanted to install Parallels Desktop on his iMac. He intended to run a flight simulator program which required Windows 10. I replied to him providing a couple of options for what he wanted to achieve. One of the guiding principles of Norm’s Computer Services is to offer clients the most appropriate solution for their circumstances.

One of the options I suggested was the Parallels solution he had suggested, and the other was to use Boot Camp. These are by far the two most popular options for anyone wanting to run Microsoft Windows on their Apple Mac computer. But they aren’t the only possibilities. 

I recently wrote a post describing four different ways in which it’s possible to run Windows on a Mac. In this article, I’d like to look at another option, and to describe the steps involved in implementing this method. In general, the different approaches can be considered in two categories.

The first category involves installing Windows on a different partition than that occupied by the macOS. This means that, when using the computer, you boot into one of the two partitions, and the only way to access the other operating system is to reboot the computer. This is how Boot Camp works and it’s straightforward to set up as Boot Camp is a built-in feature in the macOS operating system.

The second category involves running what is called a virtual machine (VM) within the macOS operating system. If you’re not familiar with virtual machines, Microsoft defines the concept well.

A virtual machine is a computer file, typically called an image, that behaves like an actual computer. In other words, a computer is created within a computer. It runs in a window, much like any other program, giving the end user the same experience on a virtual machine as they would have on the host operating system itself.

Parallels Desktop is the most well-known means of implementing the virtual machine solution. The product has been designed specifically for the purpose of running Windows on a Mac. As a result, it makes it effortless to implement as it walks you through all the required steps and takes care of the technical details for you. The product, however, isn’t free and different editions are available.

A number of virtual machines are available for use on a Mac. Some of these require the purchase of a license, and others are free. If you’re interested in learning more, it’s worth checking out some of the options out there, as different products offer different features.

One of the most well-known virtual machine products, and one which is completely free, is Oracle’s VirtualBox. The software is open source and can be used on Mac or Windows computers. It includes a host of options and features, though you won’t need to be concerned with many of these when configuring it to run Windows on your Mac.

In this guide I shall describe the steps involved in getting you up and running with Windows 10 on your Mac computer using Oracle VM VirtualBox.

The first step is to download VirtualBox and install the software on your Mac. You’ll also require a Windows 10 installation ISO file which is available to download from Microsoft. You should copy this file to a FAT32 or NTFS-formatted flash drive after downloading it.

Once you’ve installed and launched the VirtualBox software, you will see the following screen. Click on New to get started.

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In the next window, give your new virtual machine a name, then click on the arrows beside Version: and scroll to select Windows 10 (64-bit). Click Continue after selecting your version. 

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In the next window, you can specify how much RAM you would like to allocate to your virtual machine. The recommended memory size is 2048 MB but you may want to select a higher value so that your virtual machine will perform better. It’s not crucial that you get it right at this stage as you can adjust this value at any time after creating your virtual machine. Click Continue after you’ve selected the amount of RAM you would like to allocate.

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In the subsequent window you need to ensure that Create a virtual hard disk now is selected and then click Create.

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In the window which follows, select VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) and click Continue.

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Next you have the option to select a dynamically allocated size for your hard disk, or a fixed size. A dynamically allocated hard disk file will only use space on your physical hard disk as it fills up, but a fixed hard disk may be faster to use. It’s fine to select the default option which is Dynamically allocated and then click Continue.

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In the final window of the setup procedure, you can provide a name for your new virtual hard disk file and select the amount of file data which the virtual machine will be able to store. Then click Create.

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Your virtual machine will now be created and you should see a screen similar to the following.

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You’re now ready to launch your new virtual machine for the first time, and install Windows 10 in it. Before proceeding, make sure that you have connected your flash drive containing the Windows 10 ISO file to the Mac.

Having done this, ensure that your virtual machine is selected in the left-hand pane and then click the green arrow labelled Start. In the window which appears, click on the folder icon to locate your Windows 10 ISO file and then click Start.

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Your virtual machine should be launched and, after a short time, you will see the Windows 10 logo appear. Soon after this, you’ll be presented with the Windows Setup window where you can select your language, time and currency format, and keyboard. Click Next and Install Now on the next screen.

From this point on just follow the steps to install Windows 10 in the normal manner. After you have completed the installation, you can run Windows 10 at any time by launching the VirtualBox app, selecting your Windows 10 virtual machine, and clicking the green arrow to start it.

So there you have a completely free method enabling you to run Windows 10 on a Mac. Hopefully, you’ve been able to follow my outline of the steps involved. You will still of course require an activation key in order to activate your Windows 10 license after installation.

This Windows 10 installation guide using VirtualBox on a Mac was written by Norm McLaughlin. Norm is the founder of Norm’s Computer Services, a computer repair and IT support business in Brisbane, Australia.

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